Canto 10, stanza 5, from Byron's Don Juan:

We left our hero, Juan, in the bloom
    Of favouritism, but not yet in the blush;
And far be it from my Muses to presume
    (For I have more than one Muse at a push)
To follow him beyond the drawing-room:
    It is enough that Fortune found him flush
Of youth, and vigour, beauty, and those things
Which for an instant clip enjoyment's wings

I'm feeling a bit dense. I don't understand what Byron's talking about. It must be some apparent thing, something related to sex probably.

1 Answer 1


These lines are somewhat obscure, but maybe they can be understood in the context of the immediately following stanza:

But soon they grow again and leave their nest.
    ‘Oh!’ saith the Psalmist, ‘that I had a dove’s
Pinions to flee away, and be at rest!’
    And who that recollects young years and loves,—
Though hoary now, and with a withering breast,
    And palsied fancy, which no longer roves
Beyond its dimm’d eye’s sphere,—but would much rather
Sigh like his son, than cough like his grandfather?

So here Byron makes a contrast between the “youth, and vigour, beauty” of the hero, and the “hoary” “withering” age of—whom? Someone “that recollects young years and loves”, so this would seem to presage the old age of Don Juan, when his seductions will be at an end, and memory is all he has left of his youth.

So the reason why “those things … for an instant clip Enjoyment’s wings” is that youth and vigour bring with them a presentiment of age and death; but only for a moment.

Byron repeats this contrast between youth and age a couple of stanzas later:

But Juan was not meant to die so soon.
    We left him in the focus of such glory
As may be won by favour of the moon
    Or ladies’ fancies—rather transitory
Perhaps; but who would scorn the month of June,
    Because December, with his breath so hoary,
Must come? Much rather should he court the ray,
To hoard up warmth against a wintry day.

  • But, in the OP's quote, aren't "those things [w]hich for an instant clip enjoyment's wings" lumped together with "youth", "vigour", and "beauty"? Your interpretation makes sense in terms of literal meaning, but I can't see how a presentiment of age and death goes together with all the positive and youthful things in the same sentence.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Apr 4, 2018 at 13:36

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.